Indonesia has suspended all military cooperation with Australia, reportedly over offensive materials displayed at an Australian military base where its troops were training.
The offensive “laminated material” shown at a base was insulting towards Indonesia’s five founding principles – Pancasila – Indonesian newspaper Kompas has reported. The Kompas report says a cable dated 29 December, sent by Indonesian military commander General Gatot Nurmantyo, instructed that all military cooperation, including training with the Australian defence force, be suspended.
The Indonesian military spokesman, Major General Wuryanto has confirmed the split, but would not specifically confirm the reason, saying cooperation between the Australian and Indonesian militaries had been suspended for “technical reasons”, effective immediately. “All forms of cooperation have been suspended,” he said.
But Wuryanto suggested the suspension would not be long term, saying cooperation could resume once the “technical matters” were resolved.
“There are technical matters that need to be discussed,” Wuryanto said, including the offensive training material seen at an Australian military base. It was “highly likely” cooperation would resume once those issues were resolved, he said.
Guardian Australian understands an instructor from Indonesia’s special forces group Kopassus felt insulted by material on display at a training base.
It’s believed the Kopassus officer was initially offended by propaganda material about West Papua, a province of Indonesia in which a long-running campaign for independence, and allegations of systemic human rights abuses by the military, are of extreme sensitivity. Senior former military leaders were also insulted as murderers and criminals.
Subsequently, the officer also reportedly saw a laminated piece of paper that ridiculed Indonesia’s founding ideology “pancasila” – which translates as “five principles” – as “panca-gila”. Gila, in Bahasa Indonesia, means crazy.
Kopassus has trained for several years with Australia’s Special Air Service troops at the SAS base at Campbell barracks, Perth. No time limit has been put on the suspension, and it is unclear whether future planned joint training exercises between the two countries will be affected.
Australia’s defence minister, Marise Payne, said the Australian military hoped to restore full cooperation with the Indonesian armed forces as soon as possible.
She confirmed that late last year an Indonesian officer had raised concerns “about some teaching materials and remarks at an army language training facility in Australia”.
“The Australian Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, wrote to his Indonesian counterpart, General Gatot Nurmantyo, giving an undertaking that this matter would be addressed seriously and we would inquire into issues raised.
“The Australian Army has looked into the serious concerns that were raised and the investigation into the incident is being finalised.”
Payne said while some elements of joint training had been suspended, other areas of military cooperation had continued.
“Australia is committed to building a strong defence relationship with Indonesia, including through cooperation in training. We will work with Indonesia to restore full cooperation as soon as possible.”
Indonesia and Australia’s military relationship has improved in recent years, after an at-times troubled history.
The Lombok treaty commits both countries to cooperation in the fields of defence, combating transnational crime, counter-terrorism and intelligence-sharing. Australia has sold military hardware to Indonesia and defence and foreign ministers meet regularly.
But relations were shaken in 2013 – and military co-operation suspended – when it was revealed the Australian Signals Directorate attempted to monitor the phone calls of then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and senior officials.
News agencies contributed to this report (The Guardian)